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Chambers angered by SK’s name change

October 4, 2011

The South Kingstown Chamber of Commerce has changed its named to Southern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce. Photo by Shaun Kirby

SOUTH KINGSTOWN—The South Kingstown Chamber of Commerce sent out an email last Thursday to the five other local South County chambers and local businesses, notifying them of their official chamber’s name change to the Southern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce.” The Board of Directors for SKCC had voted unanimously for the change. The action has subsequently angered many of the surrounding chambers of commerce in South County, including Narragansett and Charlestown.
Four chambers, Narragansett, Charlestown, North Kingstown, and Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck Area, issued a joint statement to disapprove of the SKCC’s plan to rename as the Southern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce (SRICC).

“The name change was not precipitated by a merger of two southern Rhode Island chambers or by a new partnership among them,” it read. “It is merely an aggressive and strategic branding tactic that disregards and strains relations with the very chambers that [SKCC] claims to want to ‘collaborate’ with. This name change has the exact opposite effect: it alienates the South Kingstown Chamber of Commerce.”

Joe Viele, Chair of the Board of Directors of SRICC and owner of Liberty Rentals in Peacedale, feels that the name change is within the chamber’s rights, and it is not intended as a hostile act towards the other chambers in South County but a truer representation of the community they serve.

“The decision [to rename] wasn’t made at the drop of a hat, but was a long and thoughtful process,” said Viele. “The name now reflects our mission statement which says that we represent southern Rhode Island. About 25 percent of our members reside outside of the borders of South Kingstown, and I would guess that they all do business outside of South Kingstown as well as inside South Kingstown.”

The four other chambers disagree that South Kingstown is the only commercial entity which supports other business communities in South County, and the name change reflects a misrepresentation that South Kingstown Chamber of Commerce alone provides quality business services to southern Rhode Island.

“Their stated premise for the [Southern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce] is to better represent underserved communities by their chambers, such as Hopkinton or Richmond,” said Deb Kelso, Executive Director of the Narragansett Chamber of Commerce. “That incursion is a hostile act because those communities are already served. North Kingstown has always embraced Exeter, for example, and the Westerly/Pawcatuck Chamber already has a division in Hopkinton.”

Viele stated, however, that the name change does not imply a dissatisfaction or takeover of the other chambers’ sphere of influence in southern Rhode Island. As a local business owner, Viele will continue to pay membership to the Narragansett, Charlestown, and Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck Area chambers because they do a good job, and the SKCC’s name change should not hinder that opinion among the public.

“I believe they are all doing a good job,” said Viele. “Our money is where our mouths are, and I wouldn’t write a check to them for membership each year if I didn’t think they were doing a good job. I will continue to write them checks.”

The Narragansett, North Kingstown, Charlestown, and Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck Area Chambers of Commerce also feel that goodwill with South Kingstown Chamber of Commerce will be damaged by the name change, and the trust for future cooperation may not be fully possible.

For more information, pick up a copy of The Narragansett Times.

Southern Rhode Island Newspapers
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